The New York Times reports: For weeks, rumors have flown about the foreign fighters involved in the deepening conflict in Ukraine’s troubled east, each one stranger than the last: mercenaries from an American company, Blackwater; Russian special forces; and even Chechen soldiers of fortune.
Yet there they were on Tuesday afternoon, resting outside a hospital here: Chechen men with automatic rifles, some bearing bloodstained bandages, protecting their wounded comrades in a city hospital after a firefight with the Ukrainian Army.
“We received an invitation to help our brothers,” said one of the fighters in heavily accented Russian. He said he was from Grozny and had fought in the Chechen War that began in 1999. He said he arrived here last week with several dozen men to join a pro-Russian militia group.
The scene at the hospital was new evidence that fighters from Russia are an increasingly visible part of the conflict here, a development that raises new questions about that country’s role in the unrest. Moscow has denied that its regular soldiers are part of the conflict, and there is no evidence that they are. But motley assortments of fighters from other war zones that are intimately associated with Russia would be unlikely to surface against the powerful will of the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, experts said. [Continue reading…]